This is part 2 of my book summaries, the introduction paragraph is repeated. If you are interested in relationships and learning here is part 1.
This year I read 79 or so books. Also there are 24 more books that I put down without finishing. That’s a lot to summarise. I have already spent more than 15 hours and restarted the process of summarising twice. This is attempt number 3.
Here they are:
- Relationships & Communication
- Having Difficult Conversations – Douglass stone
- Crucial Confrontations -Kerry Patterson
- Emotional intelligence – Daniel Goleman
- reread: How to Win Friends and Influence People, circa 2007 – Dale Carnegie
- More Than Two – Franklin Veaux
- Nonviolent Communication – Marshall Rosenberg
- Living Non-Violent Communication – Marshall Rosenberg
- Daring Greatly – Brene brown
- On Apology – Aaron Lazare
- Circling Handbook – Marc Beneteau
- 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work – John Gottman
- Feeling Good Together – David D Burns
- Getting Past The Pain Between Us – Marshall Rosenberg
- Graduating From Guilt – Holly Michelle Eckert
- The Surprising Purpose of Anger – Marshall Rosenberg
- Come as You Are – Emily Nagoski
Books I didn’t finish
- Jono Bacon – The Art of the Community
- Games People Play
- The Stories we tell Ourselves
- Sex at Dawn – ewww evopsych
- Rethinking Positive Thinking – Gabrielle Oettingen
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat – Oliver Sacks
- Quiet – Susan Cain
- A Whole New Mind – Daniel Pink
- Flourish – Martin Seligman
- The Essential Difference – Simon Baron-cohen
- Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Superforecasters – Philip Tetlock
- The Discerning Heart – Robert Kegan
- Grit – Angela Duckworth
- Immunity To Change – Robert Kegan
- Rethinking Narcissism – Dr. Craig Malkin
- Taking Charge of Adult ADHD – Russel Barkley
- No One Understands You And What To Do About It – Heidi Halverston
- Succeed – Heidi Grant Halvorson
- Mindset – Carol Dweck
- The Origin Of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind – Julian Jaynes
- Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
- Management/self work
- The One Thing – Gary Keller
- The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande
- The Identification of Creativity
- Deep Work – Cal Newport
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport
- Turn The Ship Around – David Marquet
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horrowitz
- Superhuman by Habit – Tynan
- The Motivation Hacker – Nick Winter
- Collaborating With The Enemy – Adam Kahane
- Designing your life – Bill Burnett
- The Guilt Series – Nate Soares
- Loving What Is – Byron Katie
- Secrets of Productive People – Mark Forster
- The power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
- 168 Hours – Laura Vanderkam
- The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer
- Built to Last – Jim Collins
- The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
- Mistakes were made but not by me – Carrol Tavris
- Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel Gilbert
- Search Inside Yourself – Chade-Meng Tan
- The Gateless Gate
- Waking Up: A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion – Sam Harris
- Maps Of Meaning – Jordan Peterson
- Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing To Do With God – Greta Christina
- Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience paper – Dr Jeffrey Martin
- The Tao is Silent – smug taoist self-righteous bullshit.
- Not In God’s Name – Jonathan Sacks
- Gateless Gatecrashers – LiberationUnleashed
- Fun (Fiction mostly)
- Political/Cultural movements
- Rationality – from AI to zombies
- Being mortal: illness, medicine and what matters in the end – Atul Gawande
- Swarmwise – Rick Falkvinge
- Rules For Radicals – Saul Alinsky
- Doing Good Better – William MacAskill
- Dick Smith – A Fair Go – Housing Affordability
- Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer
- Crypto Revolution – Sam Volkering
- Theory And Reality – Peter Godfrey Smith
- Integral Life Practice – Ken Wilbur
- Preparing Heirs – Roy Williams
- Principles Of Economics – Gregory Mankiw
- Secrets of the Ninja – Ashida Kim
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
- The Black Swan – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Hedge fund market wizards – Jack Schwager
- Becoming a supple leopard – Glen Cordoza
- Godel, Escher, Bach – Douglas Hofstadter
- Lonely Planet Singapore
Before I get into the books, let me explain how this many books is possible.
In 2017 I discovered FBReader. An app for ebooks on android phones (Natural reader is a good app for IOS). That is FBReader and TTS plugin. With a bit of getting used to, and tweaking of speed I have managed to read an obviously startling number of books – I even surprised myself. So many in fact that I challenge myself to be able to remember them all and act in line with everything they have taught me. This summary and the parts to follow are as much for me as it is for you. For me – to confirm I took away what I wanted to take away. For you – to use as notes and evaluations on what is worth reading. I hope you enjoy, a review of all the books I read this year.
I get asked if I properly take in the information by audio-reading. The answer is yes and no. Sometimes I miss things, sometimes I read a book twice. Sometimes even more times. Sometimes I don’t need to re-read it. Overall I am in a much much better position for having read books in the way that I have than not at all.
A sample of a book: Robert kegan, discerning heart
5 STAGE 3 – CREATING AN INTERPERSONAL SELF
For the person functioning at Kegan’s stage 2, relationships entail the coordination of two sets of needs: what one person desires and what the other person desires. There is a clear recognition of the other person as a separate individual with his or her own separate needs and interests. But in a fundamental way, the stage-2 person’s experience of his partner remains an external experience. What others think and feel may matter to them, but it doesn’t become a feature of the stage-2 individual’s sense of self. The monumental shift in perspective-taking that occurs with the advent of stage 3 is the capacity to make another’s experience of us a part of our own experience of ourselves. The stage-3 “deep structure” that creates this new understanding of relationships is the ability to take two social perspectivessimultaneously. We often see the first expressions of this capacity in early adolescence. Consider the following incident. My13-year-old daughter left for school one morning in apparent good humor. A few minutes later I was surprised to hear her returning through the front door. Going to see what brought her back, I discovered her in tears. Thinking she’d probably had another encounter with the neighborhood bully, I asked her what was wrong. Her reply was, “Everybody’s going to think my shoes look stupid.”
217 words in 31 seconds.
Everything you need to know about how to set goals well and what does or does not work. She researched mental contrasting and how to apply that to make yourself goal seek with realism. How to save yourself from failure by noticing pitfalls and use S1/S2 (From Daniel Kahneman) to evaluate your plan before acting.
The pleasurable act of dreaming seems to let us fulfill our wishes in our minds, sapping our energy to perform the hard work of meeting the challenges in real life.
…dream your dreams but then visualise the personal barriers or impediments that prevent us from achieving these dreams. When we perform mental contrasting, we gain energy to take action. And when we go on to specify the actions we intend to take as obstacles arise, we energise ourselves even further.
In my studies, people who have applied mental contrasting have become significantly more motivated to quit cigarettes, lose weight, get better grades, sustain healthier relationships, negotiate more effectively in business situations—you name it. Simply put, by adding a bit of realism to people’s positive imaginings of the future, mental contrasting enables them to become dreamers and doers.
The book goes on to identify the difference between various ways that just dreaming about something will decrease your ability to get there. The theory goes that imagining the goal will give you some of the reward you can expect to receive from achieving it. Spending all day imagining might not just waste your time doing so but might also demotivate the goal by in some ways tricking parts of your brain into thinking it’s already got the reward.
The ancient greeks wondered about imagination, freud theorised about imagination. The greeks noticed that imagination was endless. You can try this. Imagine a door leading from your room to another room. If you travel there, then imagine there are doors in that room, one to a forest, one to a desert… From each of these, you can imagine a cave, a birthday party, and any number of following rooms. Imagination can take you to an entirely different world for as long as you let it.
Recent research in psychology has found that repeatedly imagining the act of eating a delicious food reduces our actual consumption of that food.
I don’t know if the research suffered in the replication crisis but you can probably try this on your own. With various goals and plans that you have. Only visualise the goal.
You can also try the contrasting exercise – think of not achieving the goal (something like murphy-jitsu) and the barriers that come up… Then how to solve the barriers… Then put steps in place to make that change in your life.
Alternatively if you are sceptical about this concept I can present this differently. You have a few building blocks in which you can think about your goals and heading towards that purpose:
- Imagine the goal you want to achieve
- Imagine not achieving that goal and the salience of failure
- Imagine the causes of those failures
- Imagine solutions to the causes
- Make plans for implementing the plan
- Repeat until satisfied
Arrange these into an exercise that is going to be effective for you. Run experiments and see if it works. Hone your method. Repeat until it works for you.
This also ties into the general principles in the motivation equation. The ability to tie long distant rewards into present actions is very valuable and solves the issues of motivation that plague a lot of people.
And then there’s WOOP. About 100 pages of it. Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. the scientifically verified method of improving your likelihood of achieving a goal. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Dream up a wish you want to happen, think of the outcomes, think of the obstacles and make a plan to execute that goal. Done. its the other 99 pages that are going to convince you to have tried out the method on a goal that you have.
The big question I have now – According to Russel Barkley; ADHD comes with a failure to visualise outcomes. A general failure to visualise and contrast. How do we make it easier to do mental contrasting for someone naturally without the faculty to do so. And does
Oliver is a great writer. I can’t say I learnt much here but it was nice to get a second version of the story of the “date savant” mentioned here by reading Peak. Peak suggests that Savantism is imaginary. No one goes from zero to hero without putting in the hours. You can be a date savant by playing with numbers and dates all day every day for years. You don’t know much else but you have this one neat trick at the detriment of everything else. That’s just one of the stories of patients he treats in the book.
Oliver writes very kindly about people who suffer variously through their lives. when he talks about his patients it’s almost romanticised. His writing is loved for the story it tells, not for the education it brings. The lives of his patients seem like curious oddities, not torturous experiences. In that sense the book was enjoyable because he writes so kindly, even if it was outside my usual topic of reading, and it came with limited learning potential. If it teaches one thing it’s that brains do a lot of complicated things when processes stop working the way they used to work. All kinds of strange exaggerations and compensations.
This book was terrible. Do not read this book. Half way through I was going to put it down but I decided that if I always did that for books I thought were terrible, I would never know if it were the right choice to make. Now if I want to put a book down I do. If you are looking for something that is 20 years behind, trapped in fixed mindset and a bullshit description of why one of introverts or extroverts are better without trying to take sides (but doing so really badly) – this is it. Don’t waste your time. There was nothing of value here. Go read any of the other psychology books suggested here.
Yeah I don’t know. This book didn’t help me. There are lots of minds for the future. The future is not like the past. We have technology. What matters today is not what mattered yesterday. This is like NLP. A shitty model, overfit, stretching beyond what it should. Not actually explaining much about the world. Skip it.
A great story about how Martin Seligman managed to get to where he is. The psychology of what matters. Not in the dystopic way I expected something called “the psychology of happiness” to be – AKA – make people smile more to make them happy sense but in the actual – what matters, finding meaning, and all the bits of being happy (good relationships, having meaning, playing to your strengths, appreciation/gratitude and more). Also Martin worked with Anglea Duckworth, Heidi Grant Halvorson, Gabrielle Oettingen, Carol Dweck, Mihaly and a few others and they all have matching research areas that go together and they talk about each other in the books. So if you start to read a few of them; ideas start to click into place and it starts making sense.
The book goes into well-being theory.
Well-being is a construct; and well-being, not happiness, is the topic of positive psychology. Well-being has five measurable elements (PERMA) that count toward it:
- Positive emotion (of which happiness and life satisfaction are all aspects)
This book is packed with various well-being exercises that get you to bring better sentiments into the world by doing better things, paying attention to the good things and sharing the positive experiences you have.
Another one of Martin’s concepts is signature strengths. Go with what you are good at. Do that more often, and avoid the things you are bad at or don’t like doing as much as you can. It’s not rocket science, seems obvious to get a bit more of the good fun stuff and a bit less of the boring drudgery.
There’s so much more to this book, if you care about meaning, well-being or happiness this book has clues in it for you.
Sasha created the Emotinal Quotient/Systemising Quotient. In short he has some sweeping claims that this is the difference between boys and girls (*insert bright flashing lights for controversial ideas*). This is also the difference in Autism. Think, little boy has interests in trains, boy with autism is fixated on trains (trains are a system). little girl has interest in social groups, emotions, tea parties (Emotional quotient, less systems). Obviously it’s all a spectrum, but this is why you find less autistic girls, and anyone can take a test online that approximately guesses your EQ/SQ. It’s also possible to view social-emotional as a system (as a high systemising person) and get some interesting results. Anyway, big claims, not sure if I would hedgehog on this one, but you can fox it and it can be useful.
The science of getting-into-the-rhythm. Losing a sense of time and being very happy when doing it. Unfortunately it reads like a death-essay on the topic. It feels like it was written as a manifesto of this thing and not a light reading psychology book on how to do it. So if you can glean the knowledge good but this firmly falls into the category of “thinking about it” not “doing it”. It’s a hard read and I went over it twice. It’s got some good ideas like making sure you are in the optimum learning point, and learning is not flow because by definition you need to be matching your skill to the difficulty of the task to get into flow.
A book about the good judgement project. It had some good pointers in here and I need to go over them to make sure I really have them in my head. Things like regression to the mean, Fermi estimates, inside view, check/update regularly, break into sub problems and many more. I think I preferred “How To Measure Anything” for the better feel for the idea of measuring things but they do go well together. You could probably pass on this and read HTMA instead.
This is about Robert Kegan’s big and exciting theory built on developmental psychology that is supposed to explain levels of development of complexity of people and consequently what that means for interactions and appealing to different motives.
This book is a short run through of the stages including some examples of people interacting across stages and how they can be different. I think this intro is promising but I need to read some of the Kegan books to get my head around it. It’s inherently hard to model different people and ways of thinking and get them to interact in your head. This book was a short read and worth looking at.
As said above – close to Martin Seligman’s work, Grit even gets a chapter in Flourish. They say Showing up is 10% of everything. Or maybe it’s 90%. Basically if you don’t show up you don’t get anything else done. It’s a zero-eth rule of getting anything done. In that sense “grit” is showing up. It’s turning up the next day over again and again. Also these equations:
talent x effort = skill
skill x effort = achievement
Which suggest: Talent x Effort ^2 = achievement.
Grit is also correlated with life satisfaction. Basically if you want to get anything done – you need grit. Have grit. Get grit.
The book Right weight, Right Mind. Was superior to this. by the same person, talks about the same concept, ITC, in concrete terms with several worked examples. The concept is an introspective procedure for looking at what commitments are competing for your attention. What things you might have to give up to do the thing you want to do. The thing I really like about this process is that it reminds you that other things matter. If at the end of the process you find the other things matter more than this thing, and you want to focus on them and forget this one, you can make this one not your goal. But that’s part of the process. If you do want to pursue this goal, there is a full process for challenging your established beliefs about what is fixed.
To be concrete – If you do the process on weight loss, you will be imminently reminded that eating your mothers cooking (insert your own example), and making her happy by doing so is a conflicting and competing goal. The great thing about ITC is it lets you choose one over the other, or get more comfortable with the balance.
Started reading for a friend of mine. This is about the good and the bad side of narcissism. It presents a narcissism spectrum from “never enjoying feeling special” (self denying) in an unhealthy way that becomes antisocial to actively avoid the spotlight in various ways. All the way over to people who are “addicted to attention” (self serving) in a way that becomes antisocial and manipulative in an unhealthy way.
The thing that the book really wants to emphasise is that narcissism alone isn’t a bad thing. It’s not that wanting to be important is a bad thing. Or wanting some attention is a bad thing. It’s a bad thing at the extremes. Wanting all the attention, or wanting none of the attention to the point where you avoid society to avoid attention. These are where there are problems.
The book also includes a test for narcissism, and some of my favourite stories of where narcissism came from. I very much enjoy the story of narcissus, echo, nemesis and the other ancient tales.
With regard to children and family:
This is the recipe for healthy narcissism: A family that encourages (but doesn’t require) dreams of greatness and a healthy model for love and closeness.
The book goes on to talk about the dynamics of unhealthy narcissism and how they play off around each other. Also how narcissism can make your problem seem like something else when really it might be you.
The tail of the book covers strategies around combating and working with narcissism to the benefit of your life. How to train someone to be more of a healthy narcissist and less of an unhealthy one. It might be regular reminders, it might be a system of raising concerns that make it clear with safety (1 in the link) what you want/need from the person.
There’s a whole chapter about social media and narcissism, which if you couldn’t guess goes on to explain that social media just exaggerates everything. It can allow more Narcissism to go unchecked but it can also be used to reinforce positive social support, making everyone feel more important and connected. It just makes things more complicated than before.
All in all – a good book for arming yourself with confidence when working together with and around the limitations of narcissism. I will end with the end passage of the book:
A good life balances our own self-interests with others people’s needs. That’s healthy narcissism. It’s what gives us the energy to build a life full of adventure and self-discovery. Healthy narcissism is where passion and compassion merge, offering a truly exhilarating life. And that’s a pretty great place to be.
Before reading this whole book it’s easier to watch this video where Russell Barkley talks about his theory of how ADHD works. When I started writing these reviews I hadn’t finished this book. I managed to go back and finish it as I was writing the reviews. But it was very nearly almost ironic that I didn’t finish the book about impulsiveness and distractability and only got about half way through.
The other thing to note is that ADHD diagnosis is a touchy and political topic, as are strategies around treatment. Specifically the companies that make the ADHD drugs have a vested interest in getting people prescribed. And so any researcher in the area can probably get funding around their work, but is that biased research? It’s complicated. As with any medicine it’s probably good to have a healthy skepticism about what the smart professional is insisting you do.
Turns out that for the most part – techniques that work for ADHD people are just the techniques that work for normal people. But the ADHD people don’t function normally. They never get shit done without techniques and strategies to bring them into it. Their default is to follow whims and distractions and never really complete a task. And of course there are things that make this easier, but they are not automatic.
The book is basically a productivity book on overdrive. Because what works just works. If a normal person can make use of a productivity method an ADHD person can make sweeping strides out of it. I would recommend it as part of the general system to get things done in personal productivity. Some highlights:
These are the six key components involved in self-control:
1. Self-control is a self-directed action.
2. These self-directed actions are designed to change your subsequent behavior.
3. This change in subsequent behavior is designed to achieve a net gain (maximization) of positive outcomes across both the short and long term for the individual.
4. Self-control depends on a preference for larger delayed rewards over smaller, immediate ones.
5. Self-control bridges the time lapse between an event, our response, and an outcome.
6. For self-control to occur, we need the capacity for both hindsight and foresight.
Also several “Rules” and object level strategies that are specific enough to try out yourself. I Would recommend reading it.
I read this. I swear. I just don’t remember what I got out of it. Maybe it’s that all the other books I have read have already taught me the same thing. Maybe it’s because I was reading this on a plane and sleep deprived… Or maybe it’s not worth as much as it appears to be. It’s got a good premise, presents some simple ideas like the lenses of subjective experience that cause a single person to distort their experience and cause misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Most of this book is about cognitive biases. That’s the foundation of my knowledge. If you don’t know them, maybe the book will help. If you know them, skip this book.
If you are going for this book, consider NVC first. Also Gottman, and a few others in the models of human relationships list.
Psychology books not finished:
It’s on my list to go back to it. Goes with the “one word title psyc books” collection, mindset, peak, flourish, flow.
I am not sure if this one will yield anything more on the topic. I know the concept from various other places “Growth mindset” over “fixed mindset”. Maybe if I were unconvinced of the difference or the value I would be more keen but I am already in the choir.
I have rarely ever read such armchair drivel hypothesising rubbish in my life. The whole book rests on a few shitty premises. Imagine if our multi-lobed brain was actually once several separate lobes. One of which was “god-like” which produced chatter in the form of telling the other lobe what to do. The forebrain told the hind brain what to do, giving people the feeling that they were gifted divine insight. If you had a time machine you might be able to go back and confirm at least an inkling of this theory but as far as I could tell – up to the page where I stopped, it was all a theory which cherry picked relevant data to the cause. I would skip this book.
I read this for the identity of having read this. Or I tried. I got half way through and got annoyed at how many experiments failed the replication crisis and gave up to read things that weren’t half bunk. I think that was a reasonable choice and I might go back to this some time. But it’s not worth it to me for the identity alone.
- Loving What Is – Byron Katie
- This ties in very well with NVC. 4 questions for a method of therapy that tries to flip your problems on their heads, matches up with Immunity to Change, and a whole lot of other ideas. The core of the method is to ask 4 questions:
- Is it true?
- can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without that thought?
- Turn it around (180 degrees) and find some examples in your life.
examples of the 3 types of turn around – “He didn’t listen to me” can become:
- I didn’t listen to him.
- I don’t listen to myself
- He listens to me.
Then you need to think about what’s going on and which one fits. It’s a good theory that fits into NVC.
I believe it works. And I’d keep it on hand for when I get tired of other methods because it’s a novel approach.
Katie also does something I can appreciate, she refers to her process as, “The work”. Which is an interesting and enjoyable sentiment. Psychological healing is sometimes Just Work (Video: Rick and Morty therapist rant about “work”).
The radical concept that is given away in the title of the book, as well as on the first page. No one ever before or after thought up the idea that maybe if you do one thing at a time, pick one thing and do it then pick one thing then do it, you will get one thing done at a time. For better or worse a whole book to tell you to do one thing and one thing at a time.
I don’t know… by the end of the book if I didn’t already agree with one thing I wasn’t about to be convinced now. That’s okay I only read it because I saw it on someone else’s shelf and I had a trippy moment around Christmas where I realised like Neo learning kung fu I could read a whole book in a single sitting. So props to my varying levels of insanity and focus because I found myself from start to finish of this book in one go. I didn’t actually try to write one thing and stick to it, maybe if I had you would be talking to a different person by now but I actually prefer the work by Mark Forster in the book – Secrets of productive people for being the roughest version of a chapter of text literally surrounding productivity instructions harvested from basically all other sources. I would skip this book and read that one if I had a choice.
I have to admit I read this book very fast after accidentally stumbling on it’s title while searching for Being Mortal (the next book). I don’t know how I accidentally read 360 pages but it was a fun read all the same.
Once again this book presents the radical notion that checklists are a smart idea. It then goes on to tell some great stories about the building industry, the plane piloting profession and surgery where Atul actually earnt his name researching and advocating for surgical checklists for the one simple reason that they work and they save lives. If you like a good story – this book is for you, similar to the way that Bill bryson – At home (and in all of his books apparently) takes many words to tell a few small details. Admittedly Atul was battling hard-set surgeons who refused to change their ways so he actually did gods work (this is funny because surgeons are often depicted as thinking of themselves being gods playing with life). Convincing them that they were not smart enough to escape being dumb enough to be unwilling to overcome bad-brain forgetfulness.
Turns out that checklists make sure that everyone washes their hands, every surgical instrument is in the right place and every area is swabbed before incisions are made. And behold! If you follow instructions, they work. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait until my surgery is able to be done by a robot who I don’t have to ask silly questions like – did they have their coffee this morning? Did they go out drinking last night with friends? Can I trust them?
To avoid any doubt here, next time you are in a hospital count how many mistakes happen. Then ask the question how many happen that you didn’t notice. Last I heard the hospitals averaged two mistakes per patient per day. Pretty spooky. Better be hoping they aren’t fatal ones and they are following their checklists.
All in all – this is why you want to document your code and write instructions. Any good coder knows that one day you will not remember all the details of the things that you have created and chances are the only way to not have to re-learn them is to write good instructions for yourself. So do yourself a favour and write lists.
I do use lists in my life. Definitely helps to keep track of things I don’t need to keep remembering. Like a shopping list, recipes, and many more.
This wasn’t a book and was more along the lines of a research paper. The bottom line is that “creativity” – which is usually badly defined but in this case means the process of creating. Has conditions that enable it. Some include having a block of time set aside, removing external stresses and burdens, playing around the topic of the creation area and avoiding distraction. No surprise it looks a lot like the book deep work but they said it in a shorter and more efficient way. Everyone is different so if you want to be creatively successful, you need to find your enabling resources and set up the environment you put yourself in – to enable creativity to happen.
It was at this point in my life that I decided after Fix that I needed less fun in my life and more work. That’s how I decided to do the absolutely obvious thing for myself and read the book that plenty of people were talking about called “deep work”. Deep work has this premise in it, kind of like the way that The One Thing did as well. Where if you don’t agree with the premise then the whole book doesn’t really hold.
Having said that it’s still a good read, and if you think the premise holds then the book holds. The magical premise is that there are types of work like sending emails and meetings and types of work that fits the description deep work remarkably well. Things like locking yourself in a room and writing out thousands of words of work in the hope that you get recognition as a guy who can word things together good.
Or you know, the equivalent for programming, painting, or 101 other industries that have you work and concentrate when you do. Of course some industries don’t. For example Taxi driving, which is an example I can use now but in 10 years will not be important because self driving cars will have taken over. As a taxi driver you don’t need to do deep work. That’s fine. But for everyone else that needs to sit still and belt out the work, deep work has some good ideas about thinking about that and how to do it.
Similar to Identification of creativity, there are conditions that cause deep work, like Jung who locked himself in a cabin, Einstein who would just go on long walks and drift into thinking any time he felt like it, and plenty other people with their creative “methods” or processes that yield them creation over the void of annoying crap that otherwise clogs up our lives. Crap like birthdays, emails, social media, distraction, and plenty more things that are not the ONE THING that you could be doing that is the most important thing right now.
Deep work explains the research on task switching cost, which if you don’t know I probably can’t summarise very well, but in short it takes some kind of activation energy to switch from thinking about one kind of thing to another kind of thing. Doing that less or batching your tasks so that you do your emails in the evening and not at every buzz and ping that comes to your desk is a great idea. There are other great ideas in here like keeping the morning time when you are fresh for the hardest work (see also Eat that frog).
Not a bad book, depending on if you rest with the premise or not as to whether you can agree with his conclusions. I remain unconvinced but still willing to steal some of the good ideas and generally “find what work is important work” and do that.
Yes ’tis the second Cal Newport book I read. Yes the book can be summarised by the title again, and yes that’s all there is to it. See when you engage in society you generally need to go out and earn your money, worth and conceptually your survival in some way or another. Cal is suggesting a specific strategy. Pick one thing (lol). Specialise in that one thing (like programming). Train, practice, and generally improve at that one thing until you are up the top there with the people who are the best in the world at that one thing. Then go about extracting the value that you have built up by demanding to be paid your worth.
That’s not all there is to it. In life it’s a big goal to be able to use as much of your time to do whatever you like with your time. To do that you need money. To get money you probably need to work. And when you work you probably want to be paid as much as possible for those hours. After all if you accept that there are in fact 168 hours in a week, and you work at a rate that converts to an hourly value. There is basically a limit on how much you can rake in each week. Of course if you make some quick assumptions about the efficiency of a market and “nobody would leave these $50 bills on the ground”, you get to the point where you can’t make big bucks without specialising or unless the market is inefficient in ways that only you can see, (but you are probably not that smart).
There is a limit to how much you can earn from unskilled work unless you are really worth as much as you can be and people can’t get what they want other than extracting it from you. You might clean church bells, You might design architectural masterpieces but if you want to be paid ridiculously obnoxiously you have to be the best in the world at what you do (or some how talk yourself up as being that). Then do what you like with your time and sell a few of the spare hours to the highest bidder.
Then retire on the winnings. Anyways. For a lot of people, I suspect following this strategy is going to work. It’s a good read to understand how he justifies it and generally think about how to be so good that people throw money at you.
It was around this time of the year that I met a guy who chaismatically managed to inform me that he was essentially a gazillionaire. As you casually might ask a gazillionaire – I asked him what books he would recommend. To which he charismatically dodged the question. And so five minutes later I asked again. To which he managed to dodge the question again. not having learnt my lesson I asked him a third time and really didn’t get anything out of him. However I managed to meet up with him later when he mentioned he was looking for books on leadership strategies. So I did the only thing I could do – ask around for books on leadership and then read them at lightning speed so I could tell him about them. That’s how I found Turn the Ship Around and The Hard Thing About Hard Things. I am pretty sure I gulped this book down in one session. So sure – because at the same time I wrote a review and notes.
The book is about the story of how David took the worst ship in the navy and changed the culture until it was the best ship in the navy. If you are looking to figure out how to change culture, this book definitely has some good points. If you know someone who is not motivated to do a good job, this book can help you cultivate your strategy for giving them that self-directed attitude.
My extended notes say it better but I will include this here: The book sets out examples and questions to ask yourself to implement a model called the Leader-Leader model (they can be found at the end of each chapter). The model is about empowering all members of a company to be making intelligent decisions and effectively be a leader.
You won’t need this book if you are surrounded by people who are already engaged in a good culture and there is a way to go over the top with “making good culture” and not actually get the real work done.If you enjoy a story about a guy failing over and over and over and fighting with every bone in his body to try not to fail. It’s a great story. And as for leadership? He talks about the concern that his employees would find out about the company from the evening news. He absolutely wouldn’t allow it. That meant he was telling them as a priority, keeping them on board or literally firing them personally and thanking them for all their hard work. He lived through the ugly and he won. These days he runs a VC firm, teaching other people how to survive.
There’s also the story of how he hired the best salesman he could find because the only criticism he could find on the man was that one day he walked into a floor of sales staff and said, “I don’t give a fuck how well trained you are. If you don’t bring me five hundred thousand dollars a quarter, I’m putting a bullet in your head.”
I could spend a lot more time mining this book for value but alas, there are only so many hours in a day.
Part of me read superhuman by habit because it was shorter than other books on my list and I was feeling lazy. Part of me just wanted my book list to be a little shorter. This should reflect on this book insofar as the type of person who is inspired to read it.
If you want to know everything about habits and what humans know about habits – this book basically covers it.
Humans are habitual creatures – for good and bad we get into habits. Ideally we notice the bad habits, cut them out, notice the good habits and try to get into more of them. It’s a real game of tricking your brain into the good habits and out of the bad ones. Still if you need ideas on how – this book is basically the god list of all things habit.
Okay this book was insane. It’s a personal story of how Nick Winter turned all the dials up to 11 on motivating factors. Yes. Every factor known to science, in use. All at once. It’s a wonder he didn’t burn himself out. But he did it. And he accomplished a lot while writing the book. Kudos to that man. I could not do it. Success spirals, Precommitment, Social commitment, Beeminder, hacking the motivation equation – all of the above together and more.
Motivation = Expectancy * Reward / Delay * Impulsivity
Learn the MEVID equation, apply the MEVID equation. Win at life.
A moderately rubbish business book about how to work with people who you don’t want to work with. The secrets include – keep talking even if it’s a stalemate, and keep trying to work it out. Also move up and down abstraction ladders. But I knew that. Nothing superiorly secret in this one. Just stay at the table in the conversation and things get easier.
The one man war on Carbs. He sets up the conspiracy that the world is against him only to tell you that he is right and you should listen because of reasons. Is he right? Not sure. He seems to say a lot about insulin and how CICO (calories in/calories out) is not helpful. But he does support the keto diet. Which is worth trying I guess. There was a lot of complicated discussion about insulin and how it controls things. And I barely scraped by with understanding it. But it’s worth a shot right?
Bill runs a course at an american university, running people through a workshop that has them consider what they want to be doing in the future and then design the idea job. Don’t go out and find a job and work out if it’s ideal. Find out what would be ideal and then find the job. That includes running small experiments, talking to people already in the field and checking if that thing interests you and generally doing all that “being an agent” thing that you want to do. Choosing your path and not waiting for it to happen to you. It’s more rewarding that way – when you have an internal locus of control.
Guilt is an emotion that leaves you living in pain. Why live in that torture if you can do the same as you were doing without the pain and torture of these emotions. There is still motivation without guilt, there is still purpose, but there is no need for guilt. I strongly subscribe and endorse this.
The guilt series is a set of blog posts adding up to about 11,000 words. If you don’t want to live in guilt any more, this series gives you a better way to thing about it. I cannot endorse this enough other than to say that this short set “solves” guilt.
The best summary of all other productivity books in the sense that it contains all the things. The worst summary in the sense that it’s very dry and not easy to read. So where you might power through a 7 habits, or a GTD, this one is harder to read BUT has significantly more value in it. I would have liked it to be easier to read but it really is like the bible of all things productive. And he wrote it to be that, not the story-telling feel-good book. This book is the technical manual, not the storybook. Approach if you dare. But it does have all the answers.
Part 1 here: Books I read 2017; Part 1. Relationships, Learning
Meta: Part 3 coming soon. This is a lot more work than I ever thought it would be. And I guess I retain less of the books than I thought I did.
This took too many hours. Possible on the order of 10-15. Mainly because it takes flipping through the books to make sure I didn’t miss any good insights. I basically re-read the book to summarise it.